tv ABC World News With Diane Sawyer ABC January 13, 2010 6:30pm-7:00pm EST
on on a special edition of "world news," a nation collapsed. tens of thousands feared dead in haiti after the most violent earthquake there in two centuries. rescuers struggling to find survivors buried under flattened buildings. desperate need prompts global relief. we're on the ground in haiti and talk with former president clinton, now a united nations special envoy. tonight, earthquake in haiti. good evening. the president of haiti said today that his country is destroyed.
here are the words being used to describe the earthquake's impact. unimaginable. catastrophic and collapse, as in hospitals, schools, prisons, even the presidential palace, collapsed. tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in a nation already racked by poverty. power, food and water all in short supply. the red cross has run out of medicine. the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, haiti's worst in 240 years, hit hardest in the capital, port-au-prince. nearly 3.5 million people live in the affected areas. many on unstable hillsides where they huddled all night long in prayer. one relief worker sent an e-mail that said simply, "s.o.s., please help us." this tiny nation has suddenly become the center of the world. as one haitian wrote, some countries are just not lucky. we begin tonight with dan harris.
>> reporter: it is hard to describe the devastation. >> it is a catastrophe. it is terrible. the access to port-au-prince now is impossible by car. so, the whole city is in panic. >> reporter: when the earthquake hit at 4:53 p.m. yesterday, it was just before dark on this island nation. with electricity out in most of the city, search and rescue has been nearly impossible. >> the magnitude was just immense. a lot of search and rescue is going to need to be done by hand. >> we need more people down here! >> reporter: at the united nations headquarters, a glimmer of good news. but scores of people are still missing and more than a dozen u.n. workers are dead. first responders of any kind have been practically nonexistent here. and the government itself was decimated by the earth kwashg. the presidential palace, which once looked like this is now
destroyed, along with the parliament and the penitentiary. roads are simply impossible. >> in haiti, many buildings are protected by very high walls that are often made of prices or cement or stones. and half of them were total rubbles. >> reporter: the archbishop of haiti was one of the thousands lost. he was killed in his office. a combination of factors made this earthquake so devastating. first, it was large, 7.0, and it was shallow, just six miles deep, which made the shaking worse. finally, it hit an area with high concentrations of people in poorly constructioned homes. >> port-au-prince is very mountainous, and a lot of folks had shelter in the heart of the town. people have just gathered up their belongings and just heading up the mountains hoping to find safer ground. >> reporter: so fashgs there are no reports of looting. what relief workers there are
are under siege. bob pof, one of the 45,000 americans here in haiti, spent the night trying to help. >> here, in the middle of the devastation, and the sadness, and behind me, of all things, houses burning. if it wasn't bad enough for the earthquake, now they're burning. and people are losing everything they have and it's so sad. >> reporter: today, he told us the work ahead for the aid groups is astounding. >> we're in this for the long, long haul. we're going to take care of today and tomorrow and next week. but we're also going to be here next month, next year. >> reporter: back here at the in airport in port-au-prince where the aid supplies are starting to arrive, but it's unclear if they will be able to meet the stunningly large need here tonight. this is a country that's largely devoid of basic services right now, which means no power, no running water in many place, and as the sun goes down, i fear we
are headed into another long night. george? >> okay, dan harris, thank you. one american who rode out the earthquake said it felt like a ride over a road full of potholes. there are incredible stories of survival there tonig, as well. here's kate snow. >> reporter: jillian thorpe was buried in an avalanche of concrete and steel, trapped with a coworker in the bament of their church charity, but very much alive. somehow, she managed to call her husband frank. 100 miles away, frank drove as fast as he could. he arrived just in time. jillian's hand was barely sticking out of the rubble. he described what he saw to cbs. >> i jumped into the hole and i was able to see her wave her hand. i couldn't see her body. she was just waving, and i could hear her voice. and, i mean, i couldn't hold it together, but all she was saying is, just hold it together, hold it together. just get me out of here.
>> reporter: frank started digging by hand, brick by brick. an hour later, he pulled jillian free. bruised and battered, but safe. back in connecticut, jillian's father showed us video of jillian dancing with haitian orphans. he told us the family feels blessed. >> he lifted her out of the wreckage, so -- it's a big th g thing. and they're an amazing couple of people. >> reporter: amazing stories are not hard to find here. their medical facilities severely damaged, doctors without borders treated hundreds of patients, many with broken bones and cooking gas containers that exploded. >> the best we can do is first aid care and stabilization. the reality is severe traumas. head wounds, crushed limbs, severe problems that cannot be dealt with with the level of medical care that we have available. >> reporter: the red cross has been helping haitians for
decades now, but today their office is in ruins. they improvised, caring to their own wounded as well as the community. >> we spent all day and night in the streets, just trying to give assistance. entire mountainsides of communities have come down. >> reporter: so many incredible stories here. we came upon this truck buried in the sand pit. three of them working yesterday. a 36-year-old father of five is buried in there, as well. >> my goodss. kate snow in haiti, also. president obama promised a swift, coordinate and aggressive effort to save lives in haiti, calling this a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share. it will be a massive effort. martha raddatz and dr. ricrd besser join us now from the dominican republic. martha, let me begin with you. the entire governmenis going to be working on this response, but the military is taking the lead. >> reporter: the military is taking the lead, george, and
right now, the navy is really taking the lead on this. an aircraft carrier, the "uss carl vincent." was supposed to go home to its port in california, but instead it is headed for florida, and a helicopter squadron will be headed there and heading to haiti. the u.s. navy ship "comfort," the hospital, will probably leave port in baltimore, soon, to head for haiti. a couple of coast guard cutters are in port in haiti. but right now, most of what they're doing is assessment, seeing what more they need, whether they can bring the army in on them and how many people they can get there and how fast. >> and rich, you headed the center for disease control's response during hurricane katrina. what are the first things that first responders have to do when they hit the ground? >> reporter: well, basically, you have about 36 hours, if you're going to have impact in terms of those people who have been crushed and have the most severe injuries. they have to be found, so search
and rescue is absolutely critical. and they need access to high quality medical care. that's something that didn't exist in haiti before this earthquake and clearly doesn't exist now. so, evacuation and setting up makeshift hospitals is going to be very important. we're more than 26 hours into this, and that doesn't leave a lot of time for saving those people who are most critically injured. >> okay, rich, martha, thank you. we'll come back to you later in the broadcast. here at home, there's concerned for those estimated 45,000 americans that live and work in haiti, many of them connected to humanitarian missions. haitians in this country are desperate for word of loved ones at home. david muir is in brooklyn tonight, home to 100,000 haitians. david? >> reporter: and george, as you know, more than 24 hours, well more than 24 now, since news of this massive sert quake broke, and the vast majority of the haitian-americans here have not been able to make contact with their family.
their only connection here, a small radio station that was able to pick up a signal from a radio station in haiti. with cell phones to their ears, desperate family members are trying to get through to haiti. nothing but busy signals or no signal at all. this woman finally got work. she was told her father-in-law is dead, and she is still waiting for word on the rest of her family. >> my mother is in haiti, just going to haiti. oh. >> reporter: for so many of these relatives, the one lifeline to port-au-prince is this tiny radio station in brooklyn new york, where at the end of the hall, we found the loan radio operator inundated with hacalls. he's been broadcasting one of the few stations still operating in haiti. and listeners are now calling him, asking, can he help find out about loved ones back home. have you contacted anyone in haiti? >> i was in lineor about two and a half minutes and we got
cut off. >> reporter: one caller asked about her blind mother. someone promised to go check. in communities across the country, the same wait. our lisa stark found this father in miami, waiting for word on his wife and three young children. >> reporter: their in god's hands? >> yes. there'nothing i can do. >> reporter: and there's little this radio operator can do, as well, still waiting to hear back about that caller's blind mother. this was hours ago. >> we haven't heard back. >> reporter: the same story playing out in haitian communities across this country from miami to new york, george. you can really read the pain on the faces of the people who are trying to connect with their cell phones in hand, and they've been unable to do so. >> so much heartache. david muir, thank you. if you want to help the relief effort, we've put together a list of some aid organizations. that's at abcnews.com. still ahead on "world news,"
we're joined live former president bill clinton, now special u.n. envoy to haiti. he has the latest on how they'll respond to the crisis. and lending a hand. how americans are finding ways to help haiti. than just the ladies room, so today she's talking to her doctor about overactive bladder. erin wants to get up and go without always worrying
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>> thank you, george. >> i know you've been in contact with those on the ground in haiti since the earthquake hit yesterday. at the u.n., all day today. can you start off by giving us some sense of the scale of the tragedy. earlier today, secretary clinton called it biblical. >> well, i think that's a good word. it appears that 3 million people may need some kind of aid. that's about -- almost a third of the country. so, that will give you some idea that -- the tragic thing is, we have no idea how many people have died. we're still having people work through the rubble, and places you would normally look to can't provide it. i mean, the presidential palace was damaged, the legislative chamber was damaged. not all the legislator have been accounted for. some of the cabinet members are still missing. and of course our u.n. hotel, as you know, five stories, completely collapsed. antoday, only ten people have been recovered alive. we have no idea about that.
>> that's what i wanted to ask you about. i talked to a administration official moments ago that said this might be one of the most devastating tragedies ever to hit the united nations. >> i think it's highly likely to be the highest mortality count we've ever had. and we have a woman down there who was also in a building in iraq when it was bombed. we lost 19 people there. i think mortality rate could be far higher than that. >> how do you get your arms around this problem right now? basically, you're talking about rebuilding an entire country. >>ell, you are, but i think -- keep in mind, we do know what to do. first, i would say that secretary-general of the u.n. and all the associated agencies have done a great job. they agreed to go back down there, the deputy secretary of the u.n. and he's going to do fine, and we'll have this thing organized in a day or so.
the trick is going to be to find as many people while they're still alive and can be kept alive, as possible. then i think- i want to say that i think the federal government, from the president and the secretary of state, aid director, the defense people on down have been great. we need more helicopters here to deal with the fact that a lot of the roads are impassable. we're going to have to have some earth moving equipment, some floating power generators. but we're getting there. what we have to do for the next few days is concentrate on the basics. >> after the few days, mr. president, i know you've been to haiti a couple of times. will you be going back? >> oh, sure. i'd be back there tonight if -- but i think i'm doing more good here trying to help solve problems. we basically need food, water, shelter and medical supplies. we identified some places for large numbers of people to seek shelter today. but if anyone wants to help now, not two weeks from now, a month
from now, we'll needs lots of rebuilding help, lots of volunteer help. now, unless you're in a search and rescue team or a medical team, the best thing you can do is give money for food, water, shelter and first aid supplies. those are the things we need. and we set up a website for the u.n. at clintonfoundation.org/haiti earthquake. you can text haiti at 2022, send a test message, $10 will be forwarded to it. we'll move that money in a hurry. everybody this is one of those things where $5 can make a difference. we have really skilled medical teams that right now do have sufficient aspirin. so, this is a basic thing. we have to dig them out, find the living, and then go back to work. >> money matters right now. mr. president, thank you for your time tonight. >> thank you, george. and it was bad. there's nothing more important than the ones you love,
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relief efforts for haiti are being mobilized around the country and the world. some involve governments, huge organizations and hundreds of millions of dollars. callers to pa special cell phone number set up by the state department contributed over $800,000. and they are joined by your friends and neighborhoods reaching out in a more personal way. david wright has their story. >> reporter: they got the call at 8:00 last night and dropped everything. >> called my son and asked him to have my bags brought up from the basement and pulled in and threw them in the car and off we went. >> reporter: 70 firefighters from fair fax, virginia, and their sniffer dogs, today at dulles airport, ready to go. have you had any sleep at all? >> not yet. cat naps here and there. >> reporter: this team specializes in urban search and rescue. they've been to haiti before.
in 2008, when an el respectry school collapsed, it was their job to hunt for survivors. >> one building. this appears to be much, much different, you know, widespread. >> reporter: this is just one of dozens of relief teams headed to port-au-prince from around the world, but even once they get there, the challenges are enormous. but across america, plenty of people are stepping up. in houston, texas, they brought supplies in plastic bags to church. >> i brought some clothes, some shoes and some plan kepts. >> reporter: this is hardly an affluent community, but they know how much is needed. >> people like that right now, they go through more stuff than we do. we blessed, and those people are hurting bad. >> reporter: haiti was already high on the list of countries needing assistance. so, in clayton, north carolina this was an anxious day for the pastor of horn united methodist church a mission from the church headed to haiti just last weekend. >> we know that they were on the bus when the earthquake struck.
>> reporter: finally this afternoon, an e-mail with good news. the congregation's prayers had been answered. >> the team is okay. no injuries. they spent the night on the ground sleeping with everybody else that had lost their homes. >> reporter: a mission of mercy in a place that needs it now more than ever. david wright, abc news, washington. for many of you around the country, this special edition of "world news" will continue. so please stay with us. diane sawyer is on her way from afghanistan to the quake zone where she'll anchor tomorrow. for diane and all of us at abc news, have a good night.